Polarization – crisis facing our Democracy


The polarization that has dominated U.S. politics for the past decade or so doesn’t seem as if it’s going away anytime soon.

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.”
-Albert Einstein

  • Has the recent presidential election increased polarization in the US or just brought it to the surface?
  • Who is to blame: candidates, press, cable, social media, other?
  • Do you think it important that the United States stay a Republic?
  • Given today’s world, is it possible to have a Democracy?
  • Is it important to have an educated civic media-literate citizenry?

In the coming years there will be many books and studies on the 2016 presidential race. However, today and in the very near future, we need to explore the crisis facing Democracy not only here at home but across the world. Some underlying causes for this crisis that are often mentioned, rural/city and political party polarization, gerrymandering, growing economic inequality, civic and media literacy, especially the “fake” news that permeates the Internet.

While Americans fiercely embrace their personal freedom, voter attitudes and behaviors are disengaged from the political process and the democracy designed to protect that freedom. It appears that in 2016 we moved way beyond alienation (estrangement) to antipathy (aversion).

In 1887 at the end of the Constitutional Convention, Benjamin Franklin was asked ” Well Doctor – what have we got a Republic or a monarchy?” Franklin responded, “a Republic, Madam, if you can keep it.”

That Republic has endured fort 229 years. If it is to continue, we need to understand that we are dependent on and accountable to one another; that those who disagree with us may also teach us. “Us”  “them”, does not mean “us versus them”. If this Republic is to flourish we need

  • civic-literate citizens
  • a “4th Estate” where journalists do their reporting objectively, professionally and ethically
  • elected and appointed “public servants” who “speak truth to falsehood; put citizens first not their ideological beliefs, corporate profits and reelection.”

In order to have a thriving Republic, we must do so in the context of community because it is quite impossible to achieve our voice in the context of one.

To explore the crisis facing Democracy so that we are better informed in working toward a “more perfect union”, we will be sharing a series of articles that raise questions. We hope we can start a dialogue and that you will participate. We encourage you to submit articles and post questions and your reflections that we can share with our readers.

For more, see what we’re reading.



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This post was curated by the Citizen U Editorial Board.

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